Mountaineering - Himalaya

In order to climb in mountains like these, you must first gain skills and experience elsewhere. Photo: Kraig Becker

Do you have dreams of climbing big mountains like Everest or Denali, but completely lack the skills required to even safely climb the hill in your own backyard?

Believe it or not, every climber was a beginner at some point, and it wasn’t until they found someone who could train them on the proper use of ropes, ice axes, crampons and other equipment that they finally gained the experience and skills necessary to climb safely at higher altitudes.

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Fortunately, obtaining those skills is now easier than ever, thanks to a growing number of mountaineering companies that offer training schools to help newcomers to the sport get started. Here are five of the very best options for budding alpinists looking to expand their training.

Rainier Mountaineering, Inc.

Mountaineering - RMI

An RMI guide leads climbers on Mt. Rainier. Photo: Courtesy of Jon Mancuso

Location: Ashford, Washington
Specialty: Climbing Mt. Rainier
Course: Expedition Skills Seminar

Known for having some of the best, and most experienced, mountain guides in the world, Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. (RMI) leads expeditions to just about every corner of the globe, including the Himalayas, Alaska, South America and beyond. But the company’s Expedition Skills Seminar will be the one that is most interesting to beginning climbers, providing them with the crucial skills they need while spending six days climbing Washington’s 14,409-foot Mt. Rainer.

Challenging but approachable, Rainier is the perfect setting to pick up valuable experience.

Colorado Mountain School

Mountaineering - Colorado Mountain School

Trekking through Rocky Mountain National Park. Photo: Courtesy of Colorado Mountain School

Location: Estes Park, Colorado
Specialty: Rock climbing, ice climbing and mountaineering in the American West
Course: Intro to Mountaineering

If you’re looking for a quick and affordable way to bolster your climbing skills, Colorado Mountain School is here to help.

CMS instructors offers two-day courses held over a weekend, with the first day focused on basic skills such as belaying, using a mountaineering axe and traveling over mixed terrain of snow and ice. On the second day, students put those skills to the test on a climb inside Rocky Mountain National Park.

Alpenglow Expeditions

Mountaineering - Alpenglow Expeditions

Alpenglow Expeditions trains climbers on Cotopaxi in Ecuador. Photo: Courtesy of Alpenglow Expeditions

Location: Lake Tahoe, California
Specialty: Fast ascents on big Himalayan peaks
Course: Ecuador Climbing School

Founded in 2004, Alpenglow Expeditions has quickly built itself a reputation as an innovative mountaineering company that uses technology and new techniques to alter the traditional approach to climbing big mountains.

The company’s excellent Ecuador Climbing School takes beginning mountaineers off to South America, where they’ll spend the first nine days climbing Cotopaxi, an active volcano that stands 19,437 feet in height.

Climbers can also choose to extend their stay for an additional seven days to hone their skills even further on Cayambe and Chimborazo — two other tall mountains in the region. The course provides practical lessons on using fixed ropes, techniques for acclimatizing to altitude, setting up camp on a glacier and more.

Adventure Consultants

Mountaineering - Adventure Consultants

The Adventure Consultants train climbers for the challenges of Denali. Photo: Courtesy of Guy Cotter

Location: Wanaka, New Zealand
Specialty: Expeditions to Everest and the South Pole
Course: Alpinism 1: Intro to Mountaineering

The Adventure Consultants are famous for leading expeditions to remote corners of the globe, including taking clients to the summit of Everest and to the South Pole. But the company also puts on excellent mountaineering clinics in Europe, North America and its home country of New Zealand.

The Intro to Mountaineering course held in the U.S. is a six-day excursion to the summit of Mt. Baker, a 10,778-foot peak located in the North Cascade Mountains of Washington.

This affordable itinerary offers climbers a chance to expand their résumé of skills before taking on bigger peaks located elsewhere.

Mountain Madness

Mountaineering - Mountain Madness

Expedition training in the Cascade Mountains. Photo: Courtesy of Mountain Madness

Location: Seattle, Washington
Specialty: Guided expeditions to each of the Seven Summits
Course: Alpine Climbing Course

One of the most experienced mountaineering companies in the world, Mountain Madness has been leading expeditions to far-flung places for more than three decades. The company’s Alpine Climbing Course is an eight-day mountaineering class designed to give students all of the skills they’ll need to climb just about anywhere on the planet.

Held in the Cascade Mountains of Washington, the course can provide alpinists with a solid base of skills, including gaining experience on both rock and ice as well as crevasse rescue training and advanced route finding.

An optional four-day extension gives participants the opportunity to test their new skills by leading a short expedition of their own.

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